I ended up buying a Beagle Bone Black (BBB) from MakerShed in a kit that included some components and a paperback of Getting Started with BeagleBone.
While waiting for the BBB to arrive I started reading the book on Safari Books Online and ended up never reading more than a couple of pages from the printed book. I was more comfortable reading the book on an iPad using the Safari Books Online app.
This is a very good “Getting Started” book. Its purpose is to build familiarity and confidence for someone who has not used a BBB before, and it does that very well. So well that even before I was done with it I had a ton of plans for my BBB including updating the OS from Angstrom to Debian, adding an NTP server, and a lot more.
Now I am planning on creating a remote home automation system for our garage doors.
From the publisher:
Many people think of Linux as a computer operating system, running on users’ desktops and powering servers. But Linux can also be found inside many consumer electronics devices. Whether they’re the brains of a cell phone, cable box, or exercise bike, embedded Linux systems blur the distinction between computer and device.
Many makers love microcontroller platforms such as Arduino, but as the complexity increases in their projects, they need more power for applications, such as computer vision. The BeagleBone is an embedded Linux board for makers. It’s got built-in networking, many inputs and outputs, and a fast processor to handle demanding tasks. This book introduces you to both the original BeagleBone and the BeagleBone Black and gets you started with projects that take advantage of the board’s processing power and its ability to interface with the outside world.
I rate Getting Started with BeagleBone a 10 out of 10 and recommend it to anyone as a first exposure to the BBB.